A Problem in Paradise

Recent public health interventions are targeting children at risk for obesity.

The Samoan islands are grappling with public health problems; children may provide some solutions.

For 3,000 years, people have fished and farmed the Samoan islands of the South Pacific Ocean. They thrived on papaya, breadfruit and taro; they caught and prepared fish with lime and coconut.

After World War II, everything changed: the population boomed, food imports began, lifestyles shifted. And in recent decades, the Samoans have suffered some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in the world. In the early 2000s, the adult overweight and obesity rate in the territory was nearly universal, at 93 percent, while the rate for children was close to 45 percent. Nearly 1 in 3 adults in American Samoa has diabetes.